Board discusses benefits of testing

FRONT ROYAL — During a presentation on public school testing at a meeting of the Warren County School Board, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Greg Drescher acknowledged that however frequent, benchmark assessments are critical in helping administrators ensure students are learning along the way.

“We give benchmark assessments for every content that we teach,” Drescher said.

Assessments help teachers plan and guide decisions on how an administration might need to change or adapt its leadership skills, and they provide a comparison to the education Virginia students receive versus what students elsewhere learn.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is one test given to fourth and eighth graders nationwide, Drescher used as an example.

“Based on the NAEP test,” he said, “…the state of Virginia is above most other states in terms of quality of what they’re doing.”

“In fact in math, we’re above Finland,” he said. “Finland’s in the news forever on how they’re so much better than everyone else, and [in] the state of Virginia, the tests have been equated.”

Overall, he told the board, Warren County students have seen improvements in Standards of Learning scores since tests became more stringent in recent years.

On other tests, students begin each school year with high scores that drop in the second quarter when they’re tested on newer material. Their scores tend to climb again by the end of each spring semester.

But not all students improve throughout the year, School Board member Joanne Cherefko noticed on a chart Drescher provided.

One of two students whose grades fell experienced a 15-point drop on a Math Facts test to measure his skills in addition.

“If he had the skills in the beginning, after a certain amount of instruction, how can he lose those skills?” Cherefko asked.

Saying an answer would require more information, Drescher explained the student’s other assessments in subtraction, division and multiplication showed improvements.

“Often in an assessment, that happens,” he said, and Cherefko conceded the student simply might have had a bad day.

Actions by the board:

• Approval of $1,000 stipends for behavioral support lead coaches through a grant from the Virginia Department of Education to implement positive behavioral interventions and supports for high schools
• Acceptance of the donation of a conference table from HP Hood LLC to the 15th Street Building Library
• Approval of $2,000 in college scholarships for high school seniors from three area donors
• Authorization of the advertisement of an invitation for bids for service contracts for elevator service, dumpster service, pest control, school auto bells, HVAC controls, LP gas, security monitoring and No. 2 heating oil. This is a measure the district takes every few years.

In its personnel report, the district officially announced the intention of Superintendent Pam McInnis to retire at the end of this academic year.

The School Board changed the time of its next public meeting to 7 p.m. Feb. 26 and moved the location to the County Government Center meeting room at 201 N. Commerce Ave, Front Royal. The meeting will include a public hearing to discuss the 2016 fiscal year budget. The board also plans to begin the naming process of the county’s new middle school.

A work session will start at 6 p.m. In the event the public meeting is canceled due to inclement weather, the public hearing will be held at a meeting on the following Thursday.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or